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04 August 2009
A scientist from the University’s Welsh School of Pharmacy is leading a record breaking attempt by Welsh youngsters to build the world’s largest DNA model.
More than 50 school children and young people will gather at the Science Pavilion on the Eisteddfod Maes in Bala today (Tuesday, 4 August) to get to grips with how DNA is formed. They will be taking on the challenge of creating the longest string of ‘base pairs’ to form the genetic code for chicken ovalbumin (better known as egg white albumin).
The record is currently a DNA model measuring 21.5 m (70 ft 6 in) and copies the genetic code for human insulin. There are four types of bases in DNA and their order creates the genetic code.
‘We chose chicken ovalbumin as this is around 50 bases longer than the current world-record, but the DNA sequence will be very different ", explains senior lecturer Dr Arwyn Tomos Jones.
"It is a complex challenge for a number of reasons, but we have worked out how many building blocks we need and have sourced the appropriate numbers of nucleotide bases corresponding to the DNA sequence for chicken ovalbumin. The huge model will be a copy of the genetic code with 1161 pairs of bases, all placed carefully in the correct order.
Dr Arwyn Jones and Dr Robyn Wheldon-Williams, the National Eisteddfod’s Science consultant worked together to identity the sequence around this year’s theme of the Science Pavilion – Charles Darwin and Evolution.
"The hard work will be done by the young people though. It will be a lot of fun trying to keep the DNA in the correct order and keeping it in one piece. If we are successful, the 22m model will be almost as long as the Science and Technology Pavilion itself", said Arwyn.
Once the challenge is over, the model will be disassembled at the Eisteddfod into individual components, allowing smaller building blocks to be sent to local schools.
The University is involved with and hosting a number of events throughout the week at the Eisteddfod. Among the highlights at the University’s Pavilion, next to the Science and Technology Pavilion are a reunion event for School of Welsh alumni, readings by the Schools creative writing students, and demonstrations of Herschel and Planck – two satellites launched by the European Space Agency which carry on board University-led instruments that are currently beaming their first astronomical images back to earth.
The National Eisteddfod of Wales which can be traced back to 1176 is the largest and oldest cultural festival of competitive music and poetry in Europe. It is the premier artistic event in Wales, attracting in the region of 150,000 people annually and more than 6,000 competitors.
More about the University’s events at the Eisteddfod – www.cardiff.ac.uk/eisteddfod
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